22.06.2018 -

Speech: Launch of Digitization of Toul Sleng Museum’s Document, open remarks by Ms. Anne Lemaistre, UNESCO Representative in Cambodia

Toul Sleng, 29 Jan 2018

Ayodom Chuch Phoeurn, roat lekka tika, krossung vapatoa neung vichet selepak, Ayodom, lok chum teav,

Mr Jeong Yun Gil , country director of Koika, Niyut Koika

Excellencies ambassadors and diplomatic colleagues

Ayodom Akea Roat tatou neung tomnang pesekakam neu Kampuchea, Lok Chhay visoth, niyut saramonti prolaï putsat Tuol Sleng, Lok Lok Srei, saha civut chiti metrey,  teang hok gni

This morning is an important moment we have all been waiting for quite a long time.

It is timely that we launch this project now as it coincides with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated each year on 27 January during which UNESCO is mobilizing to honor and reaffirm its commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism, racism and any other form of intolerance.

We all know the historic importance of the photographs and documents from the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum the former S-21 prison and interrogation centre where it is estimated that over 16 000 prisoners were held in this former high school. Only a handful of them survived the ordeal.

The Tuol Sleng archives have been inscribed on the Unesco register memory of the world in 2009 and it is our collective duty not only to stop their physical degradation and ensure their preservation but to make them accessible to all, especially Cambodian people.

For recall, UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 promoting the idea that the world's documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected for all and should be permanently accessible to all without hindrance.

The mission of the Memory of the World Programme is:

  • To facilitate preservation, by the most appropriate techniques, of the world's documentary heritage.
  • To assist universal access to documentary heritage.
  • To increase awareness worldwide of the existence and significance of documentary heritage. Amongst very well known elements inscribed on the Memory of the World register, the dairies of Anne Franck,

In the case of Tuol Sleng, the archives contain photographs of over 5,000 of prisoners, as well as "confessions", many extracted under torture, and other biographical records of prisoners, prison guards and officials in the security apparatus. The digitalization of these 400,000 pages of documents, will be done over a period of 2 years as well as with the creation of a data base and a crowdsourcing website for the Cambodian, families and victims of Tuol Sleng, national and international researchers. The selected company Digital Divide data represented by Mr Jeremy Hockenstein, will detail the action plan of their intervention later.

We are very grateful to Korea in particular Koica for their generous and patient support to this project. Korea has a particular link with the memory of the world programme as it is the creator of a related world price whose purpose is to commemorate the inscription of the oldest existing book of movable metal print in the world on the Memory of the World Register, and to reward efforts contributing to the preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage as a common heritage of humanity.

UNESCO wishes to thank the ministry of culture and fine arts and in particular the Tuol Sleng museum team for their active involvement in the definition and preparation of this project. Mr Chhay Visoth and his colleagues will have the full ownership of it and will benefit of opportunities to strengthen their capacities but also to connect with other world memorial places such as Auschwitz birkenau, Hiroshima memorial museum, genocide museum of Rwanda. In this regards, two international conferences will be organized to share experiences on how to transform tragedy into resilience and how memorial museums can become an educational and peace building site and promote dialogue and non-violence.

Beyond this project, we all wish to honor the memory of the victims of the khmer rouge regime. In this spirit, all collaboration with partners working on the same issues are encouraged and welcome to join the regular technical meetings that will be organized in the course of the implementation of the project. We wish already to thank the expressed support of the Extraordinary chambers in the courts of Cambodia by sharing a wealth of information and transferring already some original archives to the Tuol Sleng.

Again I am grateful to the organizers of the launching the ministry of culture and fine arts, the Tuol Sleng museum, the embassy of Korea, Koika and UNESCO colleagues.

I thank you for your attention

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